Over the course of his professional baseball career, former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Kerry Robinson has literally been in thousands of clubhouses. But his clubhouse visit this afternoon ranks near the top of his experiences.
“Just seeing the smiles, from not only the boys but their parents and their families, is all worth it for me,” said Robinson, who is the General Manager of the 2019 12U Team USA Baseball Club. The team will head to Edogawa, Japan on Sunday and Robinson arranged for the team to receive their team uniforms and gear in the visiting clubhouse at Busch Stadium.
There was some initial shock for the twelve players as they were escorted into the clubhouse as their team chants ended as they saw the red, white, and blue uniforms with their names on the back hanging from the lockers.
“I was like nervous,” Leonard “LJ” Triplett Jr. admitted. He will be keeping his familiar number-one that he also wears for the St. Louis Impact. And like the rest of his teammates, the shortstop/pitcher was quickly caught up in checking out his new gear for the trip. “It’s cool, I like it.”
After receiving their uniforms and gear, the team headed to the outfield grass for another team picture and then toured the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse.
“It was really cool,” third baseman and pitcher Sam Groff said. Normally, he wears number-22 for the Eureka Wildcats but will keep that mojo alive with number-2 for Team USA. Groff shared he is most looking forward to “playing baseball and making new friends” in Japan.
The experience will be similar to those who compete in the Little League World Series in the sense there is baseball to be played, but it’s also about being a good will ambassador and getting to know people who are different than you and learning about a new culture.
“They’re going to be staying with Japanese host families over there, so it will be a whole new life changing experience,” Robinson said. “When I was growing up in North County, I didn’t know much west further than Lindbergh Road. Growing up in Spanish Lake, baseball brought me out of that small, little pocket of the world and I wanted to be able to open it up for other guys too. They’re baseball players and we’re using that as the conduit.”
The team came together when Robinson was in Europe to help coach youth clinics in the Netherlands and Germany through the MLB Alumni Association. While there, he was introduced to Patty Wussow, President of the St. Louis Boys Baseball Association (SLBBA). She asked Robinson to help put together a USA team to travel to Japan. Due to the trip falling right in the middle of trade season, Robinson, who is a professional scout for the Cardinals, had to first receive clearance from John Mozeliak.
“He said as long as you get your work done, get it in before you leave,” Robinson said. “He’s been great with me–all kinds of things that I’ve wanted to do besides Cardinals stuff through baseball. So they allowed me to it and then Bill DeWitt III donated all of this for the boys to be able to do this. The Cardinals have been great to me over the years and again they partnered with me on this. We just want to change lives. We get to hopefully change twelve young lives and make them think bigger than they have before.”
The team is made of up of area players from a variety of programs as far away as Jackson, Missouri.
“I wanted to get a mix,” Robinson said. “I know a lot of people who run baseball programs in the area, so I reached out to them and asked them to recommend a player with talent but would be really excited to do something like this. They did a really good job recommending.”
Upon their return, Team USA will host their own tournament in August at the Pond Athletic Association in Wildwood.
“So people can come out and watch this team play when we come back,” Robinson encouraged.
More information is available online about the 2019 12U Team USA Baseball Team.